Presentation Skills. Best Practice Tips & Hints

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1 Presentation Skills Best Practice Tips & Hints

2 A Guide to Presentation Skills It s not unusual when recruiting for senior roles, or where presentations are going to be part of the job, to ask candidates to make a presentation as part of their interview. This is an excellent opportunity to show your potential employers what you can do, away from the formal interview question and answers procedure. Preparing your presentation The most important thing is to know who you re going to be speaking to. This will inevitably influence what you say and how you pitch your presentation. Find out how many people will be on the panel, their status, their expertise, any knowledge levels you can safely assume, and whether they know each other. This information is vital in helping you pull together the right amount of material, pitching it at the right level, and ensuring you have enough supporting materials to hand. Once you ve established these details, you can get to work on the all-important structure. Getting the right structure You should always have one clear message that runs through your presentation, and limit yourself to three sections: introduction, development of your argument, and summary. Any more than that and your presentation will lose focus. In general, a job interview presentation should broadly follow the following structure: 1. Tell them what you're going to say 2. Tell them it 3. Tell them what you've told them Take note of time limits (bear in mind that your nerves can speed you up or slow you down on the day), and think about your audience in order to make sure you are presenting appropriately. If you are asked to prepare in advance, try and find someone to listen to you beforehand. This gives you a chance to fine tune, and will help highlight any annoying habits or overuse of particular words like "OK", "er" and "um". Develop a powerful introduction and close, as these are the times when your audience will be most attentive. Ensure that your ideas are clear and come in a logical sequence, using sentences that are short and to the point. When calculating how much time to devote to each section, allow 10-15% for your opening, the same for your conclusion, and the rest for the main content. 2

3 A clear delivery Keep your opening punchy and have a memorable ending that will leave your audience on an upbeat note. Speak slowly and with purpose; avoid rambling or making digressions. Make regular eye contact with members of your audience, rather than allowing your gaze to drift vaguely round the room or over their heads. Try to learn your presentation by heart. It will save you having to fumble around with prompt cards or PowerPoint slides and will give an excellent impression of your confidence and professionalism. However you choose to present, practice your presentation beforehand, testing it on friends or family if you have the chance. Visual aids Most of us have experienced death by PowerPoint at some time - that sinking feeling that comes from seeing slide 1 of 60 up there on the screen, or staring at densely-packed slides as the presenter reads the text out word-for-word. Have mercy on your audience and improve your chances at the same time. Maximum content should be a headline and perhaps three or four bullets per slide with graphs and diagrams where appropriate. It should be there to help emphasise what you re saying, not to take the focus away. Don t start the slides before you have first addressed your audience. They don t want to be distracted by what s on the screen while you introduce yourself and what you re going to say. As you progress through your presentation, give your audience time to digest what s on each slide before you begin talking again. Flashy animations may show your technical expertise, but can cause major problems in distracting your audience and confusing you when it comes to pressing the button in the right places. Avoid glancing down at the screen for prompts if you ve learnt your presentation properly, you won t need them and talk to your audience, not your laptop. Always make sure any projection equipment is working properly and try to get set up and ready to go before you are asked to begin. 3

4 Taking questions Dealing with questions gives you the opportunity to further demonstrate your knowledge of your subject. Let your audience know in advance that you will be willing to take questions at the end so they don t disrupt the flow of you presentation. Take your time to answer, be ready to defend yourself and don t argue with a questioner. If you do come up against a conflict of opinions, don t try to win the battle - search for a good compromise position. Inviting other questions or views from the other members of the audience may help you diffuse a potentially prickly situation. Answer the question you have been asked, not the one you fancy answering. Repeat each question as you receive it and give yourself a moment to consider what is actually being asked. If it is a loaded question that s inviting you to say something you d rather not, diffuse it by reinterpreting it in a less pointed way, or ask your questioners to expand on what they mean. It is recommended where possible, to handle any questions using the mnemonic, TRACT: Thank the questioner Rephrase the question for the rest of the audience Answer the question Check with the questioner that they are satisfied Thank them again Alternative assessments As an alternative to being asked to give a presentation you might be also task to complete the following; Case studies A case study is often used to test your ability to analyse information, think clearly and logically, make informed decisions and demonstrate your thought processes. So the subject matter of the case study in itself is often unimportant. Do bear in mind that it is good practice to show your working and how you arrived at a decision, rather than just giving an answer. In fact, there may not be a right answer! 4

5 Simulation exercises These exercises are designed to put you in a specific role within an organisation and see how you cope. For instance you may be told the structure of the company and your position within the organisation. Then you'll be faced with an inbox full of s, reports and correspondence, and will be expected to make decisions. This includes prioritising your workload; drafting replies; delegating tasks; recommending action; and so on. This test shows how you handle complex information within a limited time, and allows you to demonstrate your organisational skills. Group discussions and role plays You may be asked to take part in a leaderless group discussion, or in a role-playing exercise where you are given a briefing pack and asked to play a particular part. Employers are looking for your individual contribution to the team, as well as verbal communication and planning skills. Remember good team working is not always about getting your ideas taken forward, but listening to, and using, the ideas of others too. Which ever you find yourself faced with remember to prepare, check and finally, enjoy it. It s a great chance to shine! 5

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